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So, this week we are shaking this up a bit. It’s the Bills’ Bye Week so obviously they don’t have a game meaning a Game Matchup Preview would be really difficult to write. I spent some time racking my brain to think of something I could do this week and then had an idea. There is a certain situation, comprised of a few intriguing matchups, all Bills’ fans have been monitoring for the past 3 years. That situation is none other than the ascension of the Bills’ Franchise Quarterback from everyone’s favorite punching bag to MVP contender. With that in mind here is 2020’s Special Edition of “Matchups Preview”, Josh Allen vs. Everyone. Preface
The date is March 9, 2018 and the Bills are coming off a season where they had finally ended a 17-year playoff drought. Speculation has been swirling for months whether the team will move on from their 3-year starting QB, Tyrod Taylor, until an Adam Schefter tweet
changes everything. The Bills had traded Taylor to the Browns “And Buffalo[s] back in QB market” signaling what many Bills’ fans had expected, the Bills will draft a QB in 2018. Fast-forward to the NFL Draft where Bills’ fans were hoping that one of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, or Josh Allen would fall to them at pick #12. The draft begins. With the 1st pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select…Baker Mayfield. With the 3rd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the New York Jets select…Sam Darnold. As pick 7 approached a 3rd QB has yet to be selected, then a trade is announced. Buffalo will trade the #12, #53, and #56 to the Buccaneers and move up to the #7 pick. With the 7th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the Buffalo Bills select…
Josh Allen. Josh Allen vs. Bills’ Fans
While some Bills’ fans were ecstatic with the Bills’ selection let’s not rewrite history and act like the entire fan base was behind the decision. Look at these Bills’ fans in Los Angeles
, how bout these ones interviewed by WKBW
, or even these ones in Tonawanda
? And full transparency, while there is no video, I fully admit that when I heard the word “Allen” follow the word “Josh” an expletive or two (or three) may have been said. Frankly we had reasons to be skeptical, after all the Bills had just drafted a QB who completed only 56% of his passes at Wyoming and while he had eye popping arm strength was more comparable to Jamarcus Russel than Russel Wilson. But shortly after the draft Bills Mafia did what it does best, shook off a “loss” and moved forward. In doing so many of these skeptics would quickly feel what few had the foresight to see, that this 7th overall pick may just be the franchise altering one Bills Mafia had been dying for, for decades.
From the second he was drafted Allen began endearing himself to Bills’ fans with his first statement
as a Buffalo Bills QB being, “Thank you to the Bills’ organization for making the leap and putting their faith in me. I’m gonna make them look like they’re the smartest people out there. I’m humbled. I’m blessed, to be a part of Bills Mafia.” The Bills had not only drafted a QB with massive upside but had gotten a football player who clearly wanted to be in Buffalo and was willing to do just about anything to prove Buffalo made the right decision in drafting him. This was visibly apparent for the first time in his career on September 23, 2018 against the Minnesota Vikings when two separate plays made Bills’ fans jaws drop more than watching Stevie Johnson shred apart Darrelle Revis. The first, on 2nd down
from the Vikings 9-yard line Allen saw a lane to the left pylon and took it. From 5-yards out Allen took off, and in a Superman pose, hit the left pylon for the TD. A play few QBs can make and even fewer all willing to make, this only foreshadowed what was yet to come in arguably the most eye-popping play of 2018. On 3rd and 10
from the Bills side of the field Allen sees a bit of daylight over the middle of the field and breaks off a run with just Anthony Barr to beat. Meeting Barr 5 yards short of the 1st down Allen did the unthinkable, he jumped, right over the 6’5” LB for a 2nd quarter first down. That was it for a lot of Bills fans, Buffalo had a QB who would clearly do anything and everything to get them a win.
There are so many more highlights that increased Buffalo’s infatuation with Allen. Whether it be his impossible
throw against Jacksonville, his Thanksgiving
first down, or literally any game against the Dolphins I could go on and on about what Josh Allen has done on the field but it’s what he has done off the field that won the hearts of Bills Mafia. Using experiences from his childhood
Allen spends more times than most interacting with the fans, the highlight being the time he took a young Dolphins’ fans’ jersey
and replaced it with a signed Josh Allen one. Or how about the time Allen had a young fan autograph a drawing
the fan was giving to Josh at a JA autograph event? All these moments culminated recently when Bills Mafia found out Allen was dealing with a difficult situation during the Bills’ 2020 matchup with the Seahawks. Postgame Bills’ fan learned that Allen’s grandmother had passed away and (un)surprisingly began donating $17 in her honor to Allen’s favorite charity, Oishei Children’s Hospital. Hundreds of dollars, Thousands, Tens of Thousands, Hundreds of Thousands, $483,000. And then the Bills’ QB capped it off by donating $17,000 to push the total to $500,000 (It would eventually exceed $650,000). Bills Mafia has found their QB in a kid that just 2.5 years earlier was excited to be a part of Buffalo now was saying, “My family is forever engraved here, myself included. I don’t ever want to leave. I want to play for as long as I can and give back to this community and Bills Mafia.”. EDGE: Josh Allen
👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 Josh Allen vs. Analytics
We have all heard the line made famous by Jason Kirk
, but here it is again; “If Josh Allen succeeds, the Bills will have outsmarted basically all regular humans and the entirety of math itself”. Let’s not sugarcoat it, the Analytics community despised the existence of Josh Allen as a prospect and before he was even drafted deemed it impossible for him to succeed. Kirk cites advanced metrics like S&P+, QBASE, Off-Target Rates, and “NFL Throw” accuracy as indicators of why his “ceiling” is Ryan Mallet and his closest comparison is Jake Locker. Kirk happened to have the catchy headline and has been a favorite of Josh Allen stans since, but this was just one of many articles written by the analytics community. Most of these analyses used made up stats as evidence to validate their pre-draft perceptions but none did so as viciously as one organization, Pro Football Focus (PFF).
In their pre-draft scouting report of Josh Allen PFF’s Steve Palazzolo & Sam Monson giddily trolled the Wyoming QB. The first statement
that stood out, “The absolutely best case scenario is you might end up with a guy who is a little bit worse than Baker Mayfield”. Let’s unpack that statement. PFF is saying that assuming literally everything falls perfectly for Josh Allen at that point in time Allen would still be worse than any level of progression which Baker Mayfield achieves. This statement is so incredibly damning of a prospect that it makes complete sense why it would take years to back off such a statement. The second statement that stood out was, “You’re not going to fix the inaccuracy, it just doesn’t happen, you do not dramatically fix a quarterback’s basic ability to deliver a ball to a target”. Thus, is the trap of analytics, the inability to contextualize statistical observations with everything that leads up to them. It is a simple fact that Josh Allen completed just 56.2% of his passes at Wyoming but the context surrounding that number is up for interpretation. I often argue that while PFF supposedly analyzes every play in order to properly grade football players doing so without knowing what the actual play is, is the equivalent of saying the original version of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno was poorly written, while being unable to read Italian. It is worth noting that PFF has admitted their mistake, though doing so in a backhanded way by referring to it as an “anomaly”, and Sam Monson even filled out the Josh Allen apology form
Analytics do have a use though and are best used as a piece of evidence in a larger discussion. PFF had failed to interpret how much Wyoming relied on their QB over other teams to a point where he was often required to win games by himself. In fact, in the only 2 games which Allen did not play between 2016 & 2017 Wyoming lost to Fresno State (10-4) & San Jose State (2-11) scoring only 24 combined points in those games. But PFF isn’t the only organization that fails to recognize the intangible parts of a player’s play as in all reality every part of the analytics community falls victim to this. Take ESPN and their made up QBR, which interestingly is built off a proprietary “formula” which ESPN refuses to educate the public on. In 2019 QBR, which measures a QBs “contributions to his team’s fortunes”
, ranked Josh Allen 24th behind the likes of Jacoby Brissett (#21), Daniel Jones (#18), and Jameis Winston (#16). In normal passer rating, a formula available to everyone, these 3 QBs combined for a rating of 81.3 which was 4 less than Allen’s 85.3. These 3 QBs also combined for 757 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs where Allen had 510 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs, numbers QBR supposedly takes into consideration. Last, Brissett, Jones, and Winston had a combined record of 17-27 (.386) while Josh’s Bills went 10-5 (.667), Week 17 removed. Like QBR all these stats lack true context but in simply watching any of these four QBs play in 2019 are their truly people out there that would argue Allen is significantly worse than 30 interception Jameis Winston? Like PFF, ESPN’s QBR has corrected its mistakes and currently has Allen ranked the 5th best QB in 2020 (he has also played much better). Still for reasons described above many within, and outside, the Bills community look at QBR as nothing more than a statistic used by Madden to help formulate their player ratings (Where Allen is currently ranked 12th). EDGE: Josh Allen
👏 👏 👏 👏 👏 Josh Allen vs. The NFL
How did NFL players feel when the Bills drafted Josh Allen? A good word is probably “Excited”. “I think Allen is trash. I don’t care what nobody say. He’s trash. And it’s gonna show too. That’s a stupid draft pick to me.” – Jalen Ramsey
. “Can’t wait to catch passes from one of my fav QB’s” – Jamal Adams
. Ramsey and Adams were clearly the most vocal players early on in Allen’s career but there were obviously more that silently drooled over the prospects of playing Allen. Allen’s rookie preseason as well as him “losing” the QB battle to Nathan Peterman were likely the nail in the coffin for many players perceptions of Allen, that is until Allen electrified the NFL.
Allen’s ability to make ridiculous play after ridiculous play has earned the respect of most all his peers. Whether it be the Barr leap, putting Kiko Alonso in the spin cycle
, single handedly gaining a 1st down on Thanksgiving, or shocking opponents with the freak plays he is able to make Allen has been able to shut up the doubters and inspire fans out of his opponents. Even his most vocal doubter, Jalen Ramsey, Allen was able to tongue tie
after beating his Jaguars in 2018. This has progressed further in 2020 where opponents interviewed prior to games are consistently lauding him. Players like Aaron Donald and Johnathan Abram
heaped praise on Allen both before and after the game but the person which demonstrates best how much the NFL respects Allen is not one who straps a helmet on each week. There is nothing more telling about the respect of an opposing QB than how the defenses attempt to stop him which is why when Bill Belichick ran 5+ DBs
on every single non-kneel snap of the Bills’ game you knew that the respect had reached a whole different level. The greatest coach of all time now looks at the JA led Buffalo passing attack as the most important element to stop wen playing the Bills.
2020 has evolved Josh Allen’s profile but even coming into this season his NFL peers were singing his praises. In the yearly NFL Top-100 NFL players voted Allen as the 87th
best player in the NFL. This list is always a point of contention and I fully admit it is one I don’t subscribe to but that fact that Allen so quickly has been able to change his perception in the NFL is telling. But it starts and ends in Buffalo where Allen’s teammates rarely have a negative thing to say about the QB. After his 400+ yard performance in Week 2 the comments his teammates made in their postgame pressers
said it all. “Jeeez, Dang Josh!”, “He’s the leader of our team and we’re riding behind him”, “He’s the General”. Ok, maybe you want to hear these things from a Buffalo Bills’ great, how bout Kyle Williams? Before the 2019 season Williams explained just who Allen is and what he means to this team when he said
, “[Allen’s] a connector of men and people. He can bring people together. People tend to gravitate to him. That is an encouraging thing for the organization and for guys that are going to come to Buffalo and they’re going to come and play in this city and this organization, is to have that guy, the bell-cow, the quarterback, be that type of guy.” EDGE: Josh Allen
👏 👏 👏 👏 Josh Allen vs. Sports Media
Like the analytics community Sports Media has been after Allen since before a football even touched his fingertips in Buffalo, and for the most part they have maintained this assault. Ultimately these talking heads spend more time building narratives based off box score and highlight watching than they do breaking down any form of tape. Honestly, it makes sense, they are entertainers after all with an emphasis on gaining views and drawing clicks more from the masses than pandering to people looking for detailed breakdowns of games. Still, to Bills Mafia and the NFL community as a whole, it becomes tiresome and incredibly frustrating to listen to these people talk about things as if they have a deeper understanding than the people who have watched every play, to a point where they demean the fans and players alike. Still this may be a losing battle and out of the 4 matchups I have broken down in this post this is the one that is nearly unwinnable. As the next 2 people will demonstrate, some people just refuse to admit they are wrong.
The first of these is Nick Wright who has been on my radar for a while as an avid listener of Mad Dog Radio, where his takes are often so outlandish you question whether he means anything he says. While Wright flip flops more than a pair of Reefs on the Jersey Shore, more often than not he spends his time slamming Allen with such little context it’s laughable. Beginning in 2018 Wright proved he had never watched Tyrod Taylor play football by saying that whoever started for Buffalo, followed by jokes about Josh Allen, represented the biggest downgrade
in the entire NFL from 2017 to 2018. This narrative was one he held onto for quite some time but for the most part remained silent on Josh Allen until recent MVP talks required him to speak. In discussing his chances of MVP 3 games into the season, when by the way JA had 1122 yards & 12 TDS. Nick Wright said
, “His chance of winning league MVP is approximately 0%”. In the same segment Wright goes on to say that he will never admit he is wrong about Josh Allen because to him he is right about the “Honorable Mention All Big-West” QB. Wright has been an utter mess covering Josh Allen but has been no-where near as bad as Colin Cowherd.
When Cowherd first heard that the Browns were considering taking Josh Allen with the #1 pick instead of Sam Darnold he likened it
to the Charlotte Hornets trading Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac in 1996. Fast forward to just before the 2020 season where Allen’s contemporaries voted him the 87th best player in the NFL (More on this later) and Cowherd had the audacity to say that Allen isn’t even a Top 200 player
in the NFL. Remember, this is coming off a season in which Josh Allen had 29TDs, ranking 6th in the NFL. Even as recently as November 5 of 2020 Cowherd put Josh Allen in Tier 3 or 3
as a QB that the Bills will need to consider moving on from incoming seasons. No joke, he had Carson Wentz in Tier 2 over Allen. In a society where people are consistently unwilling to admit their mistakes Cowherd exemplifies this inability by refusing to back off a statement that was so blatantly false that he makes even Sam Monson look like an angel. EDGE: Josh Allen
👏 Why He Won’t Succeed
It is possible that 2020 is a blip on the radar that will be Josh Allen’s career. Even through his domination of 2020 there are a few moments that make you scratch your head. Look no further than the Titans game where down by 11, with 3:26 left in the 3rd, Allen threw an awful interception which turned a close game into a blowout. This is just the boom or bust player he is which also shows up in his run game. Sure, he has plays where he bulldozes LBs, but he also clearly has a fumbling problem and takes way more big hits than any franchise would want of their QB.
The question is whether or not Allen can keep improving and reduce the mistakes. Maybe its just his incredible receiving corps in 2020 of Diggs, Brown, and Beasley which is arguably the best trio in the NFL. Could it be possible that these receivers are the keys to Allen’s success instead of the other way around? Think further, what if the Bills make the playoffs and lose their first game while Allen struggles. Then is their fear Allen can’t win the games that matter? These are very real possibilities and while only time will tell there is the possibility, they Josh Allen won’t succeed. Why He Will Succeed
But he already has succeeded. Allen has succeeded in proving every doubter that said he could never be an average NFL QB wrong, to a point where him and Lamar Jackson have left Mayfield, Darnold, and Rosen in the dust for best QB from the 2018 draft. Now when we talk about succeed, we talk about the term “Franchise QB” and wonder whether Allen can be that guy for the next 5, 10, 15 years for Buffalo and lead them back to the glory of the 90s.
As for any knocks on him now, sure he has a few frustrating moments but by all measures he is playing like a Top-5 QB in the NFL. Honestly, name me 5 QBs better than Allen in 2020, I’ll wait (Mahomes, Rodgers, Wilson, …). Allen is doing what great QBs do, make everyone around him better. John Brown just had a career year and now both Cole Beasley and Stefon Diggs are on pace for the best of theirs. Frankly, Allen is playing QB better than any player ever has in a Bills’ uniform. Yea I said it, as of this moment Allen is playing QB better than Jim Kelly, Joe Ferguson, or Doug Flutie but don’t get it twisted that doesn’t mean he is the greatest QB in Bills’ history. No, great QB is reserved for the one that gets you to the dance, best is for the one that wins it. Will Josh Allen succeed? Prediction: 1 Super Bowl Win, Buffalo Bills QB through 2030+, Hall of “Very Good” JA is a special cat and I've had more fun rooting for him in 2020 than I have any athlete in my lifetime. There is something about the player that every outsider tries to tear down and that a fan base continually props up. It’s something else when that player rewards you by improving to a point where he is in the conversation for the MVP of his league. I don’t know what the future holds, and it could be packed with regression and heartbreak, but at least for now I am comfortable, for the first time in my Bills’ fandom, repeating “We have a Franchise QB”.